An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Lishu 禮書

Sep 13, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Lishu 禮書 "Book of rites" is a Confucian treatise written by Chen Xiangdao 陳祥道 (1053-1093, courtesy name Youzhi 佑之 or Yongzhi 用之). Apart from the Lishu he has written the book Lunyu quanjie 論語全解, an explanation of the "Confucian Analects" Lunyu 論語.

According to the bibliography Zhizhai shulu jieti 直齋書錄解題, the 150-juan-long Lishu was finished during the Yuanyou reign 元祐 (1086-1093) and presented to the throne. As a disciple of the reformer Wang Anshi 王安石 (1021-1086), Chen was of the opinion that there was not only the need for political reform, but also for a new interpretation of the Confucian Classics, independent from the orthodox line of interpretation by the late Later Han 後漢 (25-220 CE) scholar Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 (127-200).

Chen Xiangdao quoted sources like the Classic Zhouli 周禮, the Kongzi jiayu 孔子家語, Xunzi 荀子 or Guliangzhuan 穀粱傳, to prove that in ancient times a ruler disposed of seven national shrines (miao 廟), and not just five, as Zheng Xuan had said. He proved that the triennial solitary ancestral offerings by the emperor (dixia 禘祫) and the offerings on the "round hill" (yuanqiu 圓丘) were two different things, and not the same, as Zheng Xuan had believed.

With such results, Chen Xiangdao touched new issues and pointed at errors in the traditional interpretations of the ritual classics. His greatest merit is that he established a coherent system of interpretation that respected the texts of all Classics simultaneously and made use of a vast amount of sources to support his findings. In many cases he also added illustrations and drawings to the text.

Chen's Lishu is includes in the reprint series Siku quanshu 後漢 (25-220 CE) and Tongzhitang jingjie 通志堂經解.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, ed. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 1, 241.